I think I’ve mentioned before — I’m a huge music buff. Always have been, always will be, I suppose. I’ve often wondered if, in the future, my generation will be in nursing homes sitting around and listening to Ramones or The Clash. I smile at the thought.
Long ago, I remember reading an interview with guitarist George Thorogood. He was asked why he only performed cover songs, and didn’t write new ones. His answer? “Why write new ones when all the good ones have already been written?” I kind of feel that way about quotes, too, as you’ve probably learned from my frequent references to them.
One of my enduring favorites is from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.” I do think he’s right, but also think he didn’t anticipate a pandemic, let alone social media, and the times we’re in. We hear screams seemingly every day in city council meetings, school board meetings and street corners. It seems to me that we no longer even first look to a thesis … a logical, factual, civil approach to a problem, and instead devolve right to shouting. I think we’re worse for it.
In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan wrote: “Nothing has been so damaged by the pandemic as what had remained of American tact.” I had to even think twice of the last time I heard the term “tact” mentioned. Our country is worse for it, in my opinion. Some people just like to hear their voices. They really don’t want to solve anything — they just want to yell. What does that do long-term, though?
A great deal can be accomplished when we listen first, seek to understand and ask questions. Sure, there are times in our history when we’ve needed to scream. The abolition movement, civil rights and other issues weren’t solved by tact. I fear, though, we’ve lost something when we start by turning up the volume without exploring a solution.
There may be a day in a place called Sunnyside, Rolling Acres, or such that I’ll need to turn up The Clash LOUD. For now, though, can we just all turn it down a bit?
Brian Fogle is the president and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.